The Mid-Michigan Activities Conference will sponsor girls golf as a league sport in 2019 after having just three teams last year.
League athletic directors voted to add Webberville as an associate member in girls golf to give the sport the four teams. MMAC bylaws state there must be four teams in order to sponsor a league championship.
“We don’t have a big talent pool,” Byron coach Paul Montgomery said. “I think it’s volleyball, but a lot of kids run cross country, too. But we’re willing to teach anyone who wants to learn how to play, from the basics of the golf swing, to teaching rules and etiquette.”
Montgomery is doing that with half of his team this year. Four of the eight girls who make up the Byron team picked up a club for the first time last month.
Laingsburg coach Greg Beavers is in the same situation.
“I’ll teach them some basics, and then I’ll go out and play a round with them, and critique them,” he said of his Wolfpack newcomers. “They like that. They like it when I can play with them so I can remind them of the same thing again and again. It’s all about muscle memory.”
The girls program there is in its second year after Sammi Walker, a senior, recruited girls to play last fall after she had played two years on the boys team.
“We had 12 girls last year, and this year, we have 11,” Beavers said. “I was surprised at our numbers. I hope we can sustain them.”
Although the MMAC had just three teams last year, three golfers qualified for the state meet as individuals.
Byron’s Greta L’Esperance and MaryAnn Montgomery, along with Chesaning’s Taylor Gross, all qualified. Montgomery and Gross have a shot at doing the same this fall, along with Durand’s Emme Lantis, who missed qualifying by a stroke in 2018.
Montgomery says girls who are serious about the game have an advantage over the boys because of their schedule.
“Girls have the nicer of the two seasons,” he said. “They have all summer to play and should be able to bring their ‘A game’ to every match. The boys play in the spring, when it’s cold, and they have a hard time getting on top of their games.”
Whatever the numbers challenge, Montgomery is happy MMAC members have something extra to play for next month.
“With four teams, the girls will have a league championship and earn the honors they deserve,” he said.
Durand has dominated early on this season, but the Eagles posted a season-low score as a team on Tuesday night, which Montgomery sees as a positive sign.
“Of our four scorers, two set personal bests,” Montgomery said. “It’s always exciting to see girls post personal bests. That’s what it’s all about. That’s how they gauge themselves. Half of the battle is competing against themselves and the other half is trying to beat the girls they’re playing with.”
Here is a look at area teams:
Coach: Paul Montgomery (seventh year)
Last year: 11-0, fourth in regional.
Key returners: MaryAnn Montgomery, Paige Fondren, Jana L’Esperance, Regan Kopesky.
Key newcomers: Brooklyn Durand, Ashley Nixon, Zoe Curtis, Cera McDonough.
Outlook: A young Byron team aims for .500 and better things beyond this season as all eight players will return in 2020. MaryAnn Montgomery, who qualified for the state meet as an individual last year, is off to a strong start and will make a bid to return.
Coaches: Kelsey Stoll and Brian Gross (both first year)
Last year: Third in MMAC, seventh at regional.
Key returners: Taylor Gross, Maggie Gross and Gabi Scholtz.
Key newcomers: Kaitlin Ferrar, KellyAnn Rodriguez, Claudia Handley and Paget Navarre.
Coach: Cecil Cole (sixth year)
Last year: 8-4 overall, 7th at regional
Key returners: Emme Lantis, Maddie Raley, Hannah Johnson, Olivia Holak.
Key newcomers: Kennedy Pawloski, Jordyn Lawrence, Callie Rochefort.
Outlook: Lantis missed qualifying for the state meet by a stroke last year. That likely won’t be the case this season. Johnson is the only senior on the team, so Chesaning will also have the bulk of its team back in 2020.
Coach: Greg Beavers (second year)
Last year: Fourth in Greater Lansing Activities Conference; did not compete at regional.
Key returners: Olivia Sivak, Ellie Thelen, Bree Schaack, Sammi Walker, Brooke Martin, Kiatlyn LaPord
Key newcomer: Grace Elfing.
Outlook: “We could make a run at the league championship,” Beavers said. “Lakewood might be too good to catch, but we’ll be close. As long as we get in and the girls get to play, I don’t care where we finish.” Sivak and Thelen could contend for spots in the state tournament as individuals. The Wolfpack will once again play in the GLAC as an associate member in golf.
Coach: Jason Krantz (second year)
Last year: 4-6
Key returners: Grace Basso, Elizabeth Tolrud, Ellie Feldpausch, Kennedy Peplinski, Maya Edwards.
Key newcomers: Jillian Bagwell, Kylie Lewis.
Outlook: The Trojans are young, with just two seniors and three sophomores among their top golfers. Krantz says if his team improves as he hopes, Owosso will finish in the middle of the pack in the Flint Metro League.
Head coach: Tim Challender
Last year: No team fielded
Outlook: Corunna returns to the links this fall after not having a team in 2018. There will likely be a learning curve for the Cavaliers, who are comprised of all first-year players.
Head coach: Jake Baumgartner
Outlook: The Ramblers will have to replace graduated players Grace Knickerbocker and Hailey Klein, who were both first-team all-GLAC golfers in 2018.